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Volunteers with International Students and Scholars, and Staff Program (VISAS)

“Volunteering with VISAS has been soul-broadening.”

—  G.F., student

The VISAS Program at the
University of Virginia: why is it important?

If you’ve ever been abroad, you may know what it’s like trying to adjust to a new language and culture. Many international members of our community report that they have trouble meeting American students, practicing their English, and asking questions about U.S. culture. Some of these international students have the additional challenge of teaching in a U.S. classroom where language and cross-cultural communication skills are critical. The Teaching Resource Center and Center for American English Language and Culture developed the VISAS program to help prospective international TAs improve their language, intercultural communication and teaching skills. In addition, we also assist other international scholars and members of the UVa community with their language needs. We are lucky at UVa to have such a diverse representation of students, scholars, and staff from around the world. Many American students seek opportunities to travel in order to get to know another culture, but right here on Grounds is a hidden opportunity to build a personal connection to another culture. VISAS volunteers recognize the benefit of bringing together individuals of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds for their own personal growth and learning.

For a video depiction of the VISAS program, check out this video created by our VISAS interns.

Requirements for all positions:

You must attend a 90-minute orientation session, agree to fulfill the duties for your position, and touch base weekly with VISAS staff and other volunteers. At the training, you’ll be given guidelines and hints, ideas and resources for carrying out the requirements of your position. The training session will be held on Tuesday, February 9th from 7:30 to 9:00 pm in Monroe Hall 130. Makeup trainings are available for those who absolutely cannot make that time.


Volunteers report that they learn a great deal about other cultures, have fun, and build enduring international friendships. Many participants go on to work or volunteer in related fields such as ESL/EFL, international development, and education.

Five Different Ways to Volunteer

Student LANGUAGE Consultants (LCs)

1 hour weekly meeting with conversation partners.

The volunteer program has expanded to include international graduate students, staff, and scholars who may not be current or prospective TAs, but who want to improve their oral English skills and learn more about American culture. LCs meet with 1-2 international partners for an hour a week for 10 weeks of the semester. Rather than a tutoring session, this is a time for relaxed English conversation on topics of mutual interest. You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position. Otherwise, an interest in getting to know international students and share one’s own culture is the only requirement.

LCs can work in any of the following areas:
* With international graduate or undergraduate students or researchers
* With international UVa staff and employees
* With spouses and family members of UVa student

Student CLASSROOM Consultants (CCs)

Work with a small group of international TAs in training. Four times throughout the semester, Classroom Consultants visit a course for international TAs in training. The volunteers provide a realistic audience for prospective TAs who perform short teaching demonstrations on material from their field of study. Classroom Consultants observe, interact, and give feedback about the lesson. Volunteers and international students also have time to converse and meet over refreshments each class period so that they can get to know each other better. This is a good position for those interested in teaching and cross-cultural perspectives. This is a great position for students whose first language is one other than English.

Commitment for CCs:

For the Spring 2016 semester, those applying for a Classroom Consultant position MUST BE AVAILABLE on Monday from 6:00 to 8:30 pm or Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:30 PM.

Dates to be announced.

Student TEACHING Consultants (TCs)

Observe and work with a new international TA.  A few times throughout the semester, Teaching Consultants visit the section of a new international TA who may need some extra support. Volunteers sit in on the class as a student and observe what seems to be going well and what areas the TA could improve upon in the classroom. Teaching Consultants then meet with the international TA to discuss their observations.You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position.

ESL Assistant (ESLAs)

Spend an hour a week assisting graduate students from other countries as they work on their oral English in CAELC ESL classes. Engage in class discussions, contribute your knowledge of English usage and slang, and provide helpful feedback as students perform oral presentations. You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position.

Workplace ESL Assistant (Workplace ESLAs)

Many UVa service employees are refugees and immigrants who have recently resettled in Charlottesville to make a better life for themselves. VISAS Volunteers have an opportunity to welcome these newcomers and to help them improve their English and literacy skills. Training and supervision is provided for volunteers who meet weekly with learners, individualizing instruction within a larger group workshop setting. Sessions are held during workers’ break time at the Hospital and Observatory Hill Dining Hall. You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position.

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